Writing Is Like Baking

I’m not turning into a food blog, I promise. But baking is one of my favourite hobbies, so I can’t help but compare it to another favourite hobby, writing.

I enjoy both cooking and baking, but there’s something extra special about baking to me. I think it has something to do with the fact that you’re taking a bunch of mostly inedible stuff, mixing it together, making it hot, and somehow turning it into a delectable masterpiece. Even though I know there’s all kinds of science behind it, it’s one of those things that doesn’t really make sense. It’s just magic.

And, as my grandma said once: “Everyone always seems to really enjoy it when you bake something.”

The other day, I was looking for something to do with my sourdough discard. If you’re not familiar with sourdough starter, it’s sort of like keeping a pet. You have to feed it and discard the extra waste (luckily, it’s only about once a week). But that “waste” is actually just extra starter that isn’t very active. You can make bread with it, but it won’t have much of a sourdough taste, which is why it’s throwaway starter.

The trick is that there are tons of recipes you can use discard starter for. I always like to use the discard if I have the time and energy because otherwise, I’m just throwing away perfectly good starter! As I mentioned already, most of the time you won’t get a sourdough taste when you use discard because the starter needs to be active in order to get that signature tang. But it does subtly enhance the flavour and texture of many baked goods.

All of this to say that I found a sourdough discard cookie recipe. Cookies??? Yep! And, best of all, they were oatmeal cookies, my favourites! I knew I had to try it. Surprisingly, even after a year of having my starter, I’d never tried sourdough cookies.

I decided not to put any fancy fillings in them and instead just try the cookies as they were, the main flavours being vanilla and pumpkin spice. As I dumped the very pungent starter into the mix, it occurred to me once again how strange it all was. Starter is, quite literally, a pure mixture of water and flour that you purposefully let sit out and get sour. And you can dump it into cookies.

They came out of the oven smelling heavenly, and one bite was enough to tell me that this was another discard recipe winner. There was the slightest sense of tanginess to them that just fit with the whole cookie, and the cake-like texture with the oatmeal was just beautiful. (Uh-oh, I might have to grab another one now that I’m talking about them…)

Writing is like baking. You take a bunch of things that don’t make much sense on their own – a character, a theme, a sentence, a plot – and you mix them all together to create a cohesive story. How insane is that?! The individual parts may not make sense on their own, but together, they create something amazing.

But the analogy goes even further. You may follow a recipe to the letter (plotters) or you may just wing it (pantsers). The brand names and amounts of ingredients you use will make your finished product slightly different from someone else who’s following the same recipe. When you’re done, maybe you’ll add something extra to garnish or maybe you’ll leave something off (I left the icing off of the sourdough cookies – there’s enough sugar in them as it is!).

The point is that there’s truly no one way to tell a story, just like there’s no one right way to make a recipe.

So whether you’re mixing up words or bread dough, own the recipe as yours. No one else will ever do it the same exact way!

Want to learn about how to write a great story? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter to get a FREE storytelling guidebook right off the bat, plus insider looks into my upcoming works, more writing tips, book recs, and much more!

Photo by tabitha turner on Unsplash

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